Mumbai: In an unexpected development, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray announced his party’s public support on Tuesday for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde who is attempting to retain his Beed Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra.

“I am declaring public support of the MNS to Munde in Beed constituency. All MNS workers should work actively to ensure that Munde is elected," Raj said here on Tuesday evening, soon after campaigning for 19 Lok Sabha seats in the second phase, ended Tuesday evening in Maharashtra.

Seats going for polls on 17 April include Beed, Munde’s stronghold in the Marathwada region, which is under renewed assault by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leadership, which is making all efforts to defeat the BJP’s biggest mass leader in the state, on his home turf.

“I also appeal to people in Beed constituency to elect Munde," Raj said in a statement, but gave no reason for his decision. The development assumes significance in the backdrop of the reported tussle between Munde and Nitin Gadkari in the Maharashtra unit of the BJP and also the latter’s much talked about meeting with Raj Thackeray, reportedly to persuade MNS against contesting Lok Sabha polls, in order to avoid a division of opposition votes.

Apparently, the offer fell on deaf ears, since Raj Thackeray went ahead and announced that his party would contest ten of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. Interestingly, in most of these seats, MNS candidates are taking on Shiv Sena, which is led by Raj’s estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray.

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